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3 steps to a TED talk

I've been working this week with folks presenting at the Reinventing the American Dream TedX conference at Occidental College this weekend. It gave me an opportunity to think anew about what it takes to build these incredible 18 minute talks. I think of them as three-part counterpoint: your words, your images, your performance.

After an intensive 5-day sprint, Gamal Palmer and I relaxed. The dress rehearsal was terrific and we both knew he was ready to go. 

After an intensive 5-day sprint, Gamal Palmer and I relaxed. The dress rehearsal was terrific and we both knew he was ready to go. 

Here are the three critical steps to producing a kickass TED talk.

  1. PREPARE TO DIG. The hardest part of a TED talk is discovering your idea worth spreading. Typically people start with one idea and it morphs into another and then that idea skittles away too. Don't shortchange yourself in the time it takes. It’s a gift  to yourself and your audience. A good TED talk will help you put roots down deep into your own soil. It’s an act of personal grounding that will help you animate your future with a sense of purpose. But that process takes time. 

    People tell me they value my work as a coach at this stage because I don't red pencil what they’ve written. I ask questions to tease out what it is they want to say. “Why are you saying that here?” “It seems like this is important to you, but it’s not clear to me why.” “What’s the one thing you want your audience to remember?”
     
  2. COLLECT IMAGES EARLY. You can't just drop pictures in at the last moment. Images matter! Perception studies say people remember far more of what they see than the words they hear. Plus your images are liable to affect your words. Start with the words, add the pictures, tweak the words, tweak the pictures.
     
  3. PRACTICE LIKE MAD. Rehearse early and often. Rehearsal is really an extension of the idea development phase. In practicing you’ll discover new ideas, new words, new ways of expressing what you have to say with language that is vivid and authentic to you.

Want to see what digging and practice reaps?  Gamal Palmer TEDx talk includes great soul-baring storytelling.